North Dakota’s Governor Jack Dalrymple signed legislation on Tuesday banning abortion procedure if a fetal heartbeat can be detected sometimes as early as six weeks into a pregnancy which makes the state the most restrictive on abortion rights in the nation according to the Associated Press. The Republican governor also signed a measure that would make the state the first to ban abortion on genetic defects such as Down Syndrome ans a measure that requires doctors who perform abortions to be a physician with hospital admitting privileges. The measures would take effect Aug.1 fueling an attempt to close the state’s one abortion clinic in Fargo and in a statement from the Governor the fetal heartbeat bill will be a direct challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion up to 22 to 24 weeks. As the Governor explains, “Although the likelihood of this measure surviving a court challenge remains in question, this bill is nevertheless a legitimate attempt by a state legislature to discover the boundaries of Roe v. Wade. Because the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed state restrictions on the performing of abortions and because the Supreme Court has never considered this precise restriction … the constitutionality of this measure is an open question.” Of course this will not end here as the abortion rights supporters promise to pursue a long and costly legal battle that they feel the state won’t win. Planning for legal repercussions, Dalrymple’s statement said according to the Associated Press that the legislature should appropriate dollars for a litigation fund before the session ends in May.
Like North Dakota, Arkansas has also passed a 12 week ban earlier this month that also prohibits abortions when fetal heartbeat can be detected through an abdominal ultrasound and will take effect 90 days after the Arkansas Legislature adjourns. A fetal heartbeat can be detected using a vaginal ultrasound much earlier, but lawmakers did not want to require women to do this invasive imaging procedure when considering an abortion which already takes its toll on the woman. North Dakota did not specify how the heartbeat would be detected, but if a doctor performs an abortion when a heartbeat is detected then they could face a felony charge with up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine where the woman would not face charges. North Dakota’s law to ban abortion based on genetic defects would also ban abortion based on gender selection which Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Oklahoma have similar laws outlawing gender based abortion according to the Guttmacher Institute which tracks these laws. North Dakota lawmakers moved last week to outlaw abortions in the state by defining life at conception which will come before voters in November 2014 as well as another anti-abortion bill awaiting Dalrymple’s signature that would ban abortions after 20 weeks baked on the fetus feeling pain. Dalrymple says that the measure requiring doctors to have hospital admitting privileges will likely be challenged in court, but commented that, “Nevertheless, it is a legitimate and new question for the courts regarding a precise restriction on doctors who perform abortions.”